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Coulthard hopes to stay at McLaren

DAVID COULTHARD says he is intending to stay at McLaren next year, pointing out that he has done better this year than Finn Mika Hakkinen and staking his claim to be kept on if the team's partners Mercedes-Benz and West cigarettes insist on the team having a German driver in 1998.

There have been rumors for some months that the Germans want Jordan driver Ralf Schumacher at McLaren. Eddie Jordan says he has Ralf under contract but in the past has proved willing to sell his drivers if he is offered enough money. Eddie Irvine had a solid Jordan contract for 1996 but moved to Ferrari when Jordan was convinced to sell Irvine's contract.

If the Germans insist on a German driver team boss Ron Dennis is going to have to face a difficult decision as he will either have to release Coulthard or Mika Hakkinen.

Hakkinen has been with the team since the start of 1993 without ever winning a race but his investment in McLaren has not been repaid with results. Mika and his manager Keke Rosberg may feel that after four years it is time to move elsewhere but with McLaren threatening to become competitive again it is not a good time to move, particularly as the team has hired Williams designer Adrian Newey to help it solve the design problems of recent years and the new Mercedes-Benz V10 engine is already considered to be a unit with race-winning potential.

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